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Top 6 Conference Cringers and One Sure Way to Avoid Embarrassment

February 14, 2018

We’ve been hosting and delivering conferences since the 1990s. Thankfully the stories below, whilst all true, didn’t happen on our watch. They do however serve to remind us of the importance of impeccable planning and expecting the unexpected.


1. Hungover MD

Two day conferences provide an important opportunity to ‘get to know each other’ after the formalities, but too much partying can spoil day 2. On one occasion, the MD of a well-known retail group had to retire back to bed mid-morning leaving his top 50 managers to fend for themselves.

2. Awkward Acoustics

A very famous cricket ground, keen to attract conference business converted a rooftop space into an activity area. A county match had to be halted when amplified sound from the rooftop spread onto the pitch.

3. Absent Award Winner

In front of over one thousand colleagues Eileen was due to receive an award for outstanding service. The production crew smartly cued up Dexys Midnight Runners greatest hit as her name was announced from the stage. The crowd went wild but Eileen had gone home early – not such outstanding service!

4. Musical Mishap

A short burst of inspiring music as an award recipient makes their way to the stage can be uplifting and at times emotional. When a distracted technician selected Meredith Brook’s ’97 hit, the award recipient certainly felt some emotion, more shame than pride as the lyrics ‘I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint’ filled the conference hall.

5. Not So Special Effects

The November gala dinner, with bonfire dessert platters festooned with lit sparklers, looked incredible. The effect went a step further when a dozen firemen stormed the building as the venue’s smoke detectors triggered the alarm.

6. Beware of the Web

Now that conference venues have high bandwidth connections, it can be tempting to not bother saving files. This is especially true for videos, with many instead just accessing YouTube. When a well-known search engine wanted to demonstrate their search accuracy the audience couldn’t help notice the obscure ‘adult’ search result at the bottom of the screen, whilst the oblivious presenter extolled the wonders of the top three results.

Your next conference doesn’t have to be this way, invariably these and more minor mistakes can be avoided simply by calling in some experience. We offer a free of charge service to conference planners in which we help to develop a programme that inspires without the risk of embarrassment. Put us in touch with your events team, we’d be delighted to share our knowledge.

For more conference advice see:

10 Tactics to Create Captivating Conferences

Tips for Successful Conference Q & A

Here’s What’s Wrong with Conferences

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